Graduate Student Research: New Achievements and Developing Inquiries


Hyunsik Chun

In our department, graduate students conduct research on a variety of topics using different methodologies, at different levels of analysis.  For example, Hyunsik Chun studies macro-level impact of university rankings in Korean higher education. He is exploring how the ranking system reshapes the landscape of Korean higher education, focusing on its historical context and structural weaknesses. His hope is to understand how rankings have come to achieve their current importance in South Korea and beyond.


Alex Ruch

In contrast, Alexander Ruch's research interests span social psychology, morality, social movements and health. His work includes a book chapter co-authored with Professor Zaloznaya, which assesses the difference in moral discourse between the protestors and supporters of genetically modified foods (GMOs). With Professor Bianchi and others, Alexander has published a review of emotion management in the Sociology Compass journal. He is also currently exploring individuals’ perceptions of organizational risks, moral judgments of stigmatized and virtuous companies, and the impact of social movements against biotechnology genetic engineering legislation.


Nicole Oehmen

Nicole Oehman has completed a research project about sex-based discrimination in the workplace. She tests the effect of gender composition on sex-based discrimination at the workplace level, using a dataset from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Bureau of Labor Statistics and the US Census Bureau for the years 2009-2012. Using a negative binomial analysis of sex-based discrimination filings on the gender composition of a state’s workforce, Nicole finds a curvilinear relationship, with the least filings in the most balanced and most male-dominated workforces. 


Ethan Rogers

Another graduate student, Ethan Rogers, is focused on neighborhood-level analysis of social networks of crime. He is currently developing a variant of his master’s thesis, “A Not So Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: Exploring Networks and Crime within a Legal Context.” In this project, he challenges theories and public narratives that view community interaction as inherently prosocial. The common perception is that strong social networks always yield neighborhood well-being. However, Ethan shows that many communities with strong networks also have high crime rates. His analysis of 66 neighborhoods in Kentucky suggests the relationship between networks and violent crime rates may depend on culture and context. Thus, social networks                           appear to be neither sufficient nor necessary for reducing crime in some neighborhoods.

Inga Popovaite
Inga Popovaite

Inga Popovaite uses cross-national survey data to explore the rise of ethnic nationalism and right-wing politics, particularly in Eastern Europe and former Soviet Union countries, a region characterized by dramatic transformation violent, ethnic conflicts, and the rebirth of ethnic nation states. She uses data from a cross-sectional survey conducted by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in 2010 and argues that more ethnolinguistic diversity in a country is related to more positive attitudes towards other ethnic groups in that country. However, Inga finds that it has less of a positive effect on people from titular majority groups, because they feel a symbolic cultural threat related to more diversity in their country.


Hansini Munasinghe

Hansini Munasinghe uses longitudinal survey data to focus on experiences of immigrants in host societies. Following a call for a focus on immigrant happiness, participation and belonging, Hansini has researched immigrant children’s experiences in high school by focusing on academic engagement, including involvement in the daily academic activities of the classroom. Using data from the Educational Longitudinal Study to compare immigrant children to third-plus generation peers, she finds that immigrant children are on par with their peers.  However, among low-income families, Hansini finds that US-born children with at least one foreign-born parent have a small advantage that is partially explained by higher parental expectations.


Allison Gorga

The final student whose research we want to highlight is Allison Gorga. She is currently developing her dissertation that assesses the role of gendered practices in the women’s prison in Iowa while also grappling with how these processes interact with larger trends in incarceration. Allison discusses how gender stereotypes in the criminal justice system have historically determined what kinds of educational or vocational opportunities and correctional treatment women prisoners received. The “tough on crime” policies of the 80’s and 90’s are usually assumed to have reduce these disparities between men and women prisoners. She plans to unpack this assumption by using archival data, such as newspaper articles, court documents, and government publications, along with the interviews of current and former correctional officers and other criminal justice actors in Iowa. 

Other articles in this Newsletter

  • SIP Award Winner

    Sociologically Imaginative Pictures (SIP) awards are presented for the best pictures capturing a sociological perspective. The winner of this year's award, James Year, describes the sociological theme of his photo.

  • Engines of Anxiety

    UI Sociology Professor Mike Sauder and his co-author Wendy Espeland describe their new book on rankings in higher education, Engines of Anxiety.

  • Seashore Hall

    Professor Karen Heimer, the chair of our department, welcomes the readers and provides an update on recent happenings at Iowa Sociology.

  • Iowa Sociological Association

    In the end of April, department of Sociology hosted the annual meeting of the Iowa Sociological Association (ISA), that brought together students from University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa, Central College, Luther College, Cornell College, Loras College, Grinnell College and Kirkwood Community College. 

  • Sociology Students

    Beginning in the fall of 2016, the Sociology Department will provide students the opportunity to major in Criminology, Law, and Justice with a Bachelors of Arts or Bachelors of Science degree. 

  • This past October, the Public Policy Center, College of Education, and UI Sociology Department co-sponsored a research symposium attended by 75 graduate students and faculty from the University of Iowa and several other Midwest universities.

  • TILE Classroom

    In 2010, in an effort to encourage student-centered teaching, the University of Iowa created the TILE (“transform, interact, learn, engage”) program.  To practice interactive teaching, many sociology professors use TILE classrooms in their courses.

  • Sociology Club

    This has been an exciting year for the Sociology Club! From lectures by renowned sociologists to career development opportunities, the Club hosted a range of useful and fun events for anyone interested in the discipline. 

  • Power of Film

    Sociology Professor Vasi is first to use Internet and social media to show how a documentary shaped public perception and influenced political change. 

  • Natalie Veldhouse

    Alumna Natalie Veldhouse (Class of 2015) has been using skills developed in sociology classrooms in her work at the Crisis Center of Johnson County, where she conducts research on food insecurity. We interviewed Natalie about using sociological imagination in her new job.

  • Dr. Alison Bianchi and team of researchers at the Center

    Professor Bianchi, along with undergraduate and graduate research assistants, investigates the problems facing the growing population of Chinese students at Iowa.